Popular books I haven’t read (and aren’t going to)

listThere are some books everyone refuses to read.  Here are some of mine. 

1. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer – Just nope.  Not my thing. 

2. The Mortal Instraments/Clockwork whatever/Lady Midnight by Cassandra Claire – The author is a pretty terrible person and her genera is not really my thing either. 

3. Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien + The Hobbit – the reasons for these books are complicated and I might one day write about it.  (note to self: good future blog post). 

4. Anything John Green by John Green – not my type of book, not my type of author. 

5. 50 Shades of Grey by someone that couldn’t be bothered to google BDSM – N.O.P.E.

6. Armada by Ernest Cline – Ready Player One was absolute crap so I’m not going to give this guy’s books another chance.

 

The magicians by Lev Grossman

1.5 starsDisclaimers: This book is the first in a series of three books, all of which are out.  Additionally, this book is being made into a TV show, with the first season already completed at the time of posting.  This book is an adult book with sex in it, nothing is talked about in any great detail besides mentions of cocks existing and a few sentences about who is sleeping with who.

Result: 1.5 stars.  While I didn’t outright hate this book, there were so. many. issues that this book could not even manage to make it to 2 full stars.  I would recommend this book for people that are interested in the source material for the show or really want to read a sub-par book about magic, magic schools, or escapist fantasy.  

Summary:

Quentin Coldwater discovers his deepest wish is real, that magic exists, after being accepted to an exclusive school for magicians.   This book is a Narnia-Harry Potter mash-up for grown ups.  

Review:

Have you ever thought, “you know what would make Catcher in the Rye better? If Holden Caulfield was super smart. And could do magic” then this is the book for you!

When I started this book I was hoping for a Spencer Reid type of quarky genius main character. Instead I got an insufferable Holden Caulfield. I don’t dislike asshole/insufferable characters, even when they are main characters but Quentin did not have an interesting backstory to hold onto that makes sense or gives him any interest. Overall this book is the definition of “interesting concept but book fell flat”. So flat I’m surprised it both exists and had enough attention to be made into a TV show. Speaking of, I’m only about 5 minutes into the first episode and already like it better? I’ll see whether that continues or not.

On top of the fact this book is plain boring and non of the characters, even the side characters which I’m typically partial to, were interesting in any way, this book was blatantly racist, sexist and ablest. It contains a number of slurs, gross stereotypes and half-hidden misogyny. But don’t worry, there are a few gay characters and characters of different races (mentioned in passing) thrown in to appease people. The book is clearly written by a male author: the male-female ratio is crap, females are described pretty or not and their age, never their personality (unlike the men), only female characters die, females are there to be ‘won’, there are blatant double standards since a female is ‘despoiled’ when she has an affair, but Quentin isn’t even though he cheated first, etc, etc. Then there is this gem, found in the first 30 pages:

“Quentin wished she wasn’t attractive. Unpretty woman were so much easier to deal with in some ways – you didn’t have to face the pain of their probable unattainability.”

Going into the mechanics of the book, the magic system is never fully described and I think even if it was it wouldn’t make any more sense then it already does, which is not at all. Additionally, the first few pages (even the first chapter, really) that are supposed to pull you in and force you to read the book are boring, old and tired. Quentin hates his life, he pines over a girl. Yawn. It’s boring and it’s lazy.

There is no real storyline/plot until the last 20-30% of the book or so which that in itself is not a problem, one of my favourite authors has penned several books like this. The issue is, Grossman does not have the writing capabilities to pull this off. He never learned proper passing. This book meanders along for hundreds of pages, often skipping forward in time dramatically then jumping back to fill in some things that were skipped in almost a bullet point type manner. It never really describes things or have a concrete timeline of what is going on, instead wonders through the author’s thoughts never really finishing where it started going. Things that I would love a whole chapter on are skipped over in a page to make way for endless descriptions of….not a whole hell of a lot. The entire novel was ‘this happened, then this happened, then this…’ Part of the reason I didn’t care about any of the characters in this book (really really rare for me) is because the story is told us instead of showing us why we should care. For example, we are constantly told Quentin is smart but never was it shown that he was. Instead he constantly did stupid things like normal magic tricks when asked to do magic instead of actual magic. In a magic school. For actual magic.

The back third of the book did pick up, if ever so slightly, once the author got to where he wanted to go. It made the first part of the book seem even more like a rough bullet point roadmap you had to slog through to get to the end battle. Once I got to that battle, though, I still was not particularly interested in what the outcome was. Then, for the finishing touch on the book once it had ended, it carried on for another 3/4 chapters of angst before mercifully finally ending without a whole lot being added in those extra chapter.

Last thoughts:

Despite all of this, I didn’t outright hate the book so I can’t really give it 1 star, but it doesn’t really deserve 2 stars for all it’s problems. Also as a side note, what is with all the J names?

The next thing: where to go from here

thoughtsSo I just finished a complete re-read of the Harry Potter series (well, I guess not complete since I have not read any of the side books or a lot of the extra stuff on Pottermore but I think you guys know what I mean).  I will likely also do a movie marathon over the next week or so and then complete it all with a blog post about my overall thoughts on the matter – an intimidating prospect since so many people have done it and I want to put out something semi-unique and thoughtful.  Already I have a few points I want to discuss now its just a case of writing them out. 

However, now I am faced with moving on to the next thing – the next book – which is, in a word, daunting.  I don’t think I’m going to start slumping but there are so many books I want to read, series to start, others to finish, that I’m not too sure where to go from here.  Normally when I find myself in this situation there happens to be a book that I have been contemplating reading for a while but have yet to get to for whichever reason and I move on to it.  Typically it’s one I’ve heard lots about from other reviewers and an curious about.  And traditionally I don’t end up liking that book (which is another story) but it allows me to move on from whatever big thing that just finished and into some really great books.

Yet this time I don’t really have an idea of what the next thing will be, yet, its not a reading slump feeling. It’s an interesting/weird feeling.  I’m interested to see what I end up picking up.  

Book reviews petpeeve

thoughtsA bit of a controversial blog post today, so things might get interesting, but I have been thinking about this for a while and I thought I should the thoughts into words and throw them out to the world.

I dislike Booktubers and Book reviewers that consistently give 4 and 5 stars to the books they read.  

I’m talking about more than 80% of the books they read end up with 4 or more stars.  Booktubers and Book reviewers that pretend to love every book they read, ever.  They never seem to dislike a book, and when they don’t give a book 4 stars (or more!) it was because they only ‘liked’ the book, but didn’t ‘love’ the book.

While I admit that I rarely read a book that I dislike or outright hate, I do have issues with a lot of books, and as a result many books of the books I read fall into the average book category (of around 3 stars).  When I feel a book is just average I say as much.  I don’t want to read a lot of average books, I want to read as many great or excellent books as possible, therefore I try to say how I really feel about the book so that others may be informed before reading it after me.

On one hand, I get that publishing is a hard business; authors don’t make a lot of money and a good review means more sales.  However, I’m less likely to trust reviews from reviewers that love every book they read.  For me, the reviews become less meaningful.

A reviewer that loves every book they read seems like they want to be friends with every author and publisher than to review books in a meaningful way.  Loving every book is a good way to be trusted by publishers as they know you will give the book a good review even if it is not the greatest book and therefore the book will sell better because it has good reviews.  Fair enough.  But I feel like for buyers/readers/followers/friends/whatever you want to call them it is dishonest as to me it seems as though the reviewer is out to get free books rather than say the book had a flaw or two.  It makes it hard to differentiate what books are really good and that the reviewer really really loved versus the ones that are average.

Review videos do help distinguish great books from average books, as it is fairly easy to tell based on face, voice and mannerisms if they person truly loved the book (plus its a lot of effort to go through for a book that was not truly loved, unless the reviewer wants to talk about why they didn’t like the book as much as they would have liked).  A written review is harder to trust, though again, it’s harder to give a lengthy meaningful review about a book that is not truly loved.  Pair a generic star rating and maybe a few words on the book compared to a lengthy, glowing review and it’s fairly easy to tell which reviewer liked the book more.  However, I want to be able to take a star rating with those few words and give them as much weight as a lengthy reviews as not everyone is great at putting into words why they loved I book.  I will admit it up front, I’m terrible at saying how or why I love a book and much better at talking about how I don’t like a book.

Perhaps I’m just over thinking the whole situation.   I don’t want to go pointing fingers at other people as they are books lovers the same as me and that is not productive.  When I find I am trusting certain people’s reviews less and less I stop following them on Goodreads.  It’s a simple solution and there is no need to make a fuss.  But at the same time I also wonder if I am the only person that feels this way.

And as an added disclaimer: I don’t normally read reviews before I read new book but I like to follow people on Goodreads to get new ideas for books to read that I might not have heard about.  Additionally, I do read books that people dislike (not just read books that everyone loves) however I like to know why the book is disliked before I read it.  Sometimes I will then read the disliked book because the reasons people dislike it are reasons I would like it (an example I can think of are Gamer Girl by Mari Mancusi for being predictable, but I was in a predictable book mood).  Other times I want to read a disliked or controversial/mixed review book in order to form my own opinion about the book (such as Carry On by Rainbow Rowell).  Then there are times I read reviews on a liked book or a disliked book and decide it’s not the type of book for me.

Books with great examples of friendship

thoughtsIn my opinion YA novels in general lack good friendships.  Even harder to find is healthy female friendships, something I have discussed already about on this blog. This time, however, I wanted to highlight some fantasy books that have great examples of friendship, including female friendships!  

The obvious one to start with are the Harry Potter books which showcase the formation of new friendships and how they develop and change over time.  They show realistic instances of strife and strain in the friendship including friends picking sides, which is something that I have personally experienced and think that many people have at some point in their lives.  The friendship in these books are also never unhealthy which is refreshing in YA books.  

Another excellent series that showcases friendship is the Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce.  A group of four diverse children, most of them orphans, form long lasting friendships that could really be described more as a ‘picked family’ or ‘build family’ dynamic.  The characters are diverse in many ways that include life story, so called ‘rank’ in society (think money, classism), ethnicity, body type and shape and many other ways.  Also there are FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS! That are HEALTHY, meaning they are not bitchy and jealous behind each other’s backs and trying to sabotage each other every other chapter.  One of the interesting things to consider is how each of the four characters interact with the other, some friendship is built on mutual respect and others about sassing each other.  Every pairing of the four characters is a strong example of friendship and none of the pairings is a weaker or lesser friendship. 

All of Tamora Pierce’s novels have great examples of friendships (and all of them have female friendships!!) but another series of hers I want to highlight is the Protector of the Small series.  This one, on top of showcasing the development of friendship, deals with bullying and overcoming harsh odds to accomplish your goals.  Additionally, it deals with sexism and being misjudged based on your perceived abilities  based on your gender and also the complications that arise from how being better at or in a position of power in a field that is dominated by the opposite gender.  Also Griffins.  

In adult literature the Inda series by Sherwood Smith has many great examples of friendships and comradery.  This series I think is unique in that it showcases a young boy leaving home for the first time and forming his own friendships away from his family and without their influence for the first time.  Then during the course of the first book something happens that removes all of these friends from him and he needs to start over.  Yet, over the course of the series you see that even in the short time that he knew his – for lack of a better word – original friends, they still think of him and there are long lasting ramifications as a result.  This is a complex and beautiful series.  

Switching back to YA/middle grade literature, the Young Wizards series by Diane Duane is another great series that has a brilliant male/female friendship duo.  They find each other and bond over being wizards and the hazards that come with the profession but also because they were both bullied.  While I have yet to get caught up with all the books in this series, so far they have followed these two characters for years without the same old, tired trope of them finally falling in love and dating, etc, that normally develops in YA literature with dual male/female leads.  This could chance once I catch up but for now it’s refreshing since males can be friends with females without being in love.  

Also in YA there is the Mediator series by Meg Cabot.  These books are more suited to the ‘urban fantasy’ title then straight up fantasy, however, they deal with having to navigate life after moving across the country to a new school and having a new family, including too many brothers.  There is definitely more going on in the book then just this, but the main character also tried to make new friends, tries to make friends or maybe just peace with her new brothers and tries to keep in contact with her old friends.  

A similar situation occurs with the Green Rider series by Kristen Britain (which is located in the adult section of stores/libraries but there really isn’t much of a reason for this as it is suitable for young adults).  The main character of this series runs away from school and the friends she had there and into a new adventure where she makes new friends.  Her other friendships are not forgotten, though!

In conclusion, I have written the word friendship/friends a total of 32 times in this blog post!  Obviously this list is not exhaustive, but I hope that many you will find something in this list to read that will show you some great examples of healthy friendships!